Institute of Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology
at Ariel University

Institute of Archaeology

The Origins of Halakhic Judaism Archaeological Project

Directed by Dr. Yonatan Adler

“Halakhah”, in its broadest sense, refers to the overall system of Jewish law, especially as this relates to the details of ritual practice. The observance of halakhah played a central role in the day-to-day lives of Jews throughout extended periods of Jewish History, and indeed serves as a hallmark of Judaism as we know it. Recognizing the critical significance of halakhah in the development of Judaism and in the unfolding of Jewish history, scholarship beginning with the 19th century Wissenschaft des Judentums movement has made great strides in developing a “history of halakhah”, an investigation of how various aspects of halakhah originated and developed over time. Unfortunately, this vitally important field of inquiry has focused its efforts almost exclusively on the evidence provided by written sources, mostly late Second Temple period Jewish literature and early rabbinic texts. Material evidence provided by archaeology was unavailable to the earlier researchers, and mostly ignored by later ones.

Recognizing that archaeology is actually indispensable for a comprehensive understanding of the genesis and early development of halakhah, The Origins of Halakhic Judaism Archaeological Project seeks to recruit data from archaeology in tandem with textual evidence with the goal of studying how ancient halakhah originated and subsequently developed over time. Archaeology and texts tend to provide very different kinds of information, and if brought together prudently, hold the potential to afford a much more comprehensive and accurate understanding of halakhah’s genesis and ways it was observed in the ancient past.

Amongst the most salient topics analyzed under the aegis of this project are mikva’ot (ritual baths), chalkstone vessels, ancient tefillin (phylacteries) from the Judean Desert, and archaeozoological evidence of kashrut (dietary law) observance. The project is currently engaged in archaeological fieldwork through the ‘Einot Amitai Archeological Project, and has already produced a series of articles on ancient halakhah, its origins and early development.

For more information, please contact project director Dr. Yonatan Adler: